EAGAN, Minn. – Nobody panic, OK?
That was the message by Dalvin Cook on Thursday as he fielded questions about his injured shoulder from Twin Cities media members.
The Vikings running back left Sunday's game and said he's continuing to follow his weekly routine in hopes that he can play Monday.
Cook was asked if this is a "frustrating time" for him, given that he missed 17 of 32 games during his first two seasons with ACL and hamstring injuries, respectively.
"No, it's part of the game. It's football," Cook said with some gusto. "It's not the end of the world – you all know that, right? We're still playing football. We're winning. We won Sunday. I'll be all right."
He assured that he's been in the training room every morning "grinding and trying to get my shoulder right so I can be available when my team needs me."
Cook also clarified that the shoulder injury is different than a chest injury he previously was battling.
Given that the Vikings have a favorable chance of making the playoffs (and actually could clinch a postseason berth Saturday night if the 49ers beat the Rams), has Cook given any thought to just "shutting it down" for the final two games of the regular season?
Always respectful, Cook didn't go so far as to roll his eyes. But his feelings were clear as he said the following assertively:
"Nah. I'm going to say it again … I'm going to go through my normal week of preparation, of getting ready for the game, and I'm going to spend as much time as I can in the training room to get ready to play. Then we're going to go from there."
The status of Cook and rookie running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) have yet to be determined, but the Vikings have confidence in their running backs room and the depth displayed against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Mike Boone stepped in for Cook when he left the game, and he went on to score the first two touchdowns of his career. The older back has every bit of faith in Boone if he's called on again.
"He's bein' Mike. That's Mike," Cook said. "We trust all our guys. We've got guys in the backfield that can shoulder the load. You saw that on Sunday with Boone stepping in, Ameer [Abdullah] stepping in, C.J. [Ham] taking carries. It just shows, next-man-up mentality – that's the kind of mentality we have in that room."
Even though the Vikings could have a playoff spot locked up before kickoff on Monday, the NFC North crown still technically is in play.
If Minnesota defeats Green Bay and Chicago, and if the Packers lose to – or tie – the Lions in Week 17, the Vikings would snatch the division from their rivals.
Cook is more focused on what he can control than on how other teams could help Minnesota reach its goals.
"We've gotta win Monday. That's our mindset," Cook said. "I know there's some stuff that can get us in earlier than we play, that's obvious, that's out there, but our mindset is to go win this football game convincingly.
"It's Green Bay, too, you all know how that goes," he added. "We don't like them; they don't like us."
The stage is set perfectly: a home game against a bitter rival and in the prime-time slot of Monday Night Football.
"If you can't get going for this one, I think you're in the wrong profession," Cook said. "It's a big-time game, and we know that. There ain't no hiding that. We have to go out there and play our best football."